Posted on November 20th. 2019
Questionnaire by Jason Houston on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM
Jason: John it’s been a while since we last talked but in that time a number of things have taken place in your life. I understand you left the New Jersey area where you had lived for most of your life and relocated. Where have you relocated to and what was it like to make such a huge move for you?
John: First off hello again and thanks for wanting to hear what’s going on!!! I lived most of my life in NY, on Long Island. I was living in NJ mainly due to a job, was there for about 7 years. I am now in sunny Florida, so no more snow for me! LOL!
Jason: Just prior to making your big move I understand that you threw a big going away party with some of your closest friends. Talk a little bit about that event and how you feel it was?
John: It was a combination going away /belated birthday party jam get together….lol! Some former band mates of mine suggested I couldn’t really leave without a proper rock n roll send off so……..members from 2 of the bands I was in, Cosmo’s Moon and The Dead End Kidz, all got together and worked out a pretty cool set list of songs from both eras of my singing career. We did original tunes from both bands and also some fun rock n roll cover tunes. We rented a soundstage that a friend of mine co-owns so we kept it as an all ages, totally free show. It was a fun night, a cool way to celebrate my bday (at the time I was turning 55) and a rock n roll send off to FLA.
Jason: When we last talked you had just launched your KICKASS FOREVER site. Talk a little bit about the site and how that’s been going for you?
John: It’s funny how things change as you move forward with things. My initial vision was to have a site based on doing reviews (albums & shows) and hopefully interviews too. No news. I had a 4 member writing staff with me included and ready to take on the world! As things moved forward, and they moved quickly, one staff member quit (he just didn’t have the time) and 2 of the others had similar issues but stayed on. I started contacting record labels and PR firms and before you know it, I was getting press releases emailed to me. Promo albums in advance too. The one thing I never intended on doing is now what KAF has morphed into! I always thought doing news bits was just too much work, hunting things down and stuff but now, the bands and labels are coming to me! Which makes it a whole lot easier! LOL! So I have basically become a one man wrecking crew. The hard work is paying off, we just went over 2100 followers on Facebook and I am flirting with the idea of selling t-shirts with our KICK ASS logo on it!!! Stay tuned……
Jason: It was recently announced that MOTORHEAD was one of the nominees to be inducted into the Rock N Roll hall Of Fame. My question is what do you think about MOTORHEAD being named as a nominee?
John: What do I think? Long overdue man! Motorhead may not have been the most talented band but that is not what any music HOF should solely be about. The thing about Motorhead and obviously, especially Lemmy, is the influence factor. They were just SO different when they came out. Combining the blues, punk and metal and churning out LOUD rock n roll was just epic! So they get my vote for sure.
Jason: It was originally announced that MOTORHEAD Drummer: Miikkey Dee and Guitarist: Phil Campbell would not be inducted along with Lemmy and the other original MOTORHEAD Members but after receiving a huge amount of backlash it seems that the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame for once have listened to the fans and decided that they now will also be inducted. Thoughts on all of this.
John: THE WAY IT SHOULD BE! I know those 2 aren’t technically “original” members (I think the original line up only lasted one album), or even the “famous” line up but they are the longest tenured. Those guys helped Lemmy keep the legacy alive for many many years so well done RRHOF, for once 🙂
Jason: Are you much of a MOTORHEAD fan and if so what’s the story of how you first became a fan? Have a favorite MOTORHEAD song or album?
John: I first heard Motorhead in the late 70’s when I discovered hard rock & metal. I have to be honest at first I had trouble getting into them because of the vocals. When I first got into hard rock I liked bands with better, cleaner singing. But it was undeniable that Motorhead had great songs! That is a good note for any young musicians, write great songs! Playing a million notes a second doesn’t mean shit if the songs suck!!! Once I got around to seeing them live it just grew from there. Great band, loud ad F**K too!!!! Also, I miss Lemmy – the embodiment of the rock n roll attitude!!!!
Jason: John I know you’re a big Kiss fan like me so I thought as always it would be fun to talk about Kiss. 2019 marks the 45th anniversary of the CLASSIC Debut album. This is an album I feel really just hit the mark! Have to talk first about that iconic album cover. I mean just look at how drastically different the makeup designs for Peter and Paul were compared to the makeup designs 45 years later in 2019?
John: You always remember your first, right? LOL! If I recall correctly, they actually had brought in makeup specialists to do their makeup for that photo shoot. Peter’s was just too difficult to keep, could you imagine having to do THAT much detail for every time he put it on? I like the simpler version better. I also kind of remember a story about Ace’s hair…..that he actually spray painted it silver! But yeah, incredible debut album!
Jason: Many Kiss fans have mixed feelings in regards to the song “Kissing Time” being added to later pressings of the album. What are your thoughts on both the song and the fact that it wasn’t on the original album release?
John: I always liked that song, I thought it was fun. It’s actually “Kissin’ Time” haha! LOL! I love the fact that 3 members shared lead vocals. It was my opinion back then, at that time, that Peter might have had the best singing voice. I think being older and more experienced might’ve been to his advantage. Very Ace-like solo too (when Ace was actually playing them – whoa!). Fun song, I had no problem with it being added. I am sure the “real” reason was a way to sell more albums. Not like you could download in the mid 70’s! LOL!
Jason: One of my all-time favorite songs off of the debut album would be “Let Me Know” which I understand is one of the very, first songs Gene and Paul ever wrote together. What are your thoughts on the song and then do you prefer the version that appears on the debut album or the extended version that later appeared on the Kiss Box Set?
John: I think you mean the Bell Sound Studios demo version, right? Well that is the way they played it live. I had no problem with that version. I am sure they shortened for the album because somebody maybe thought it flowed better. But yeah man a real KISS gem, I love that song! That box set had some real cool stuff on it!!!!!
Jason: To my ears the debut Kiss album has a real raw energy to it…Your thought on the overall sound and production of the album?
John: Well, you get what you pay for right? They had a limited budget, so I think for the time era, they did the best they could. A band’s first album is usually the easiest because you’re recording songs you’ve been playing for years. If the band is good enough, you should really be able to go into a studio SO prepared that recording should quick n easy. It’s after that, when you have to write new songs and don’t have the luxury of playing them as many times to make it sound like you’ve been playing them for years. That’s what separates bands that don’t last long, to iconic bands like KISS. So for me the first KISS album is right up there with some of my all time fave albums by any band.
Jason: John what are your favorite songs off the debut album? Any you don’t really care for?
John: No man I liked every song on that one! There are obvious classic tunes like COLD GIN, BLACK DIAMOND and DEUCE but man give me STRUTTER any day of the week! I always thought some band should do NOTHIN’ TO LOSE today, could make a great single! FIREHOUSE, 100,000 YEARS – I mean damn! What an album!!!
Jason: 1974 also marks the 45th anniversary for Kiss’s 2nd album: Hotter Than Hell. Now in regards to the album cover you could see the look was starting to change just a little and there was no denying the band’s image was just as important as the band’s sound. Do you remember what your thoughts were when you saw The Hotter Than Hell album cover for the very, first time?
John: I thought it was kinda strange. I mean I was a kid, 12 years old. The strange Japanese writing and the different outfits, the kind of dull picture….what? huh? It came across a little dark and mysterious to me at that time. But yeah you could see the development of “the look” was evolving into something really cool! I was into comic books at that time so it made me even more into their look. But once you open the packaging and the needle hit the groove, it HAS to deliver!!!! HTH DID!!!!!!
Jason: Like on the debut album with “Cold Gin” Guitarist; Ace Frehley’s presence was felt as a songwriter with the songs “Parasite” and “Strange Ways”. Your thoughts on these two songs. I ask because in the early days of Kiss, Ace had no interest in being a lead Singer and would give his songs usually to Gene or Peter to sing?
John: The story was Ace was too shy or lacked confidence in his singing abilities. I always wondered if it was because of his addictions? But that is a story for another day I guess. Yeah man I was like “Ace should write more songs!” PARASITE is one of the coolest hard rock riffs ever written! Just badass and at the time kinda unique. STRANGE WAYS was always one of my favorites from this album because of the solo, just SO cool! That is probably my fave Ace solo of all time – ripping!!!! Peter’s vocals were really good on that one too.
Jason: While the debut album seemed to have a real raw energy to me I feel that there was a huge progression in the songwriting. I mean just look at songs like “Got To Choose”, Watchin You” or “Comin Home”. How do you John feel the songwriting progressed from the debut album to Hotter Than Hell?
John: Yeah man like i said that is what separates the great bands. They recorded those 2 albums pretty close together timewise, so to have THAT many more great songs ready to go was very impressive. If you think about the way things are today, bands take years between albums! In the 70’s, KISS was taking MONTHS between albums AND doing their best work! Those first 6 KISS studio albums were churned out in what 4 years? That is mind boggling! I think that is why they are so raw sounding, except for DESTROYER.
Jason: I think overall that Hotter Than Hell is a very underrated album as well as many of the songs on the album. I always loved songs like “Mainline”, “All The Way”
John: I AGREE!!!! Again, so many great songs. GOT TO CHOOSE, GOIN’ BLIND, WATCHING YOU, HTH I mean c’mon!!!! Amazing stuff!!!!
Jason: “Let Me Go Rock N Roll” has remained a staple in Kiss’s live set all these years off and on I think part of the reason for that is because it pre-dates “Rock N Roll All Nite” and with that being said “Let Me Go Rock N Roll” could be considered the real, first Kiss Rock anthem. Your thoughts on Let Me Go?
John: My favorite KISS song. I love it. I love the extended guitar solo, I love the jam feel to the whole song. Then the break down and build back up in the middle is great with the big open power chords and the pounding bass line back into the solo – so cool! The song is even better live! It still sounds so great. Rock n Roll in its essence if forever, a real good rock n roll song shouldn’t sound dated and this song doesn’t. Yes, like you said it is anthemic but for me it’s just the energy of the whole song.
Jason: I think one of the best tracks on the Hotter Than Hell album is “Strange Ways” which as I mentioned is actually a song written by: Ace Frehley and sung by Drummer: Peter Criss. To my ears Peter does a great job of singing the song but what do you think of his drumming on the song?
John: Yeah man Peter was a beast before his demons caught up to him. Again, like I mentioned about Motorhead with the influence factor. Do you realize how many drummers started drumming because of Peter Criss?! Those epic drum solos and the Alive! Albums?!?!?!?!? As for this track, he is doing some subtle stuff in there that kind of goes under the radar but is really cool. The little shuffle that is going on while he is singing is quite cool.
Jason: in 1995 when KISS UNPLUGGED was released people really loved the UNPLUGGED version of the song “Comin Home” the UNPLUGGED version really made people have a new found appreciation for that song. Kind of gave new life to that song. What do you think?
John: Well for a diehard like me I was amazed they remembered to include that song! OMFG how awesome was that?! I loved everything about unplugged, it was a monumental success and why? because of the GREAT SONGS!!!! Stripping down and playing acoustic is not an easy thing to pull off, especially when you’re known for show and volume. UNPLUGGED as an album just proved how great KISS’ songs are. COMIN’ HOME was always one of my favorite KISS tunes, but then again I have SO many of them! LOL! I thought it was a cool way to kind of let the MTV fans know that hey, KISS made great music before the video era took over.
Jason: “Goin Blind” also seemed to get a new life, new appreciation on the Unplugged album. What do you think of the the original version of the song from Hotter Than Hell vs. the 1995 UNPLUGGED version?
John: Again, just great stuff. I remember seeing a video on youtube of Gene & Paul playing this on MTV Europe unplugged, just the 2 of them. It was brilliant! Yeah man another song that was bred new life into via UNPLUGGED. A great song, I love both versions. My friend constantly reminds me how the band THE MELVINS play it live all the time! LOL! I think I actually like the Unplugged version better. But either way I love that tune too!!! I am such a KISS nerd! LOL!
Jason: Thanks again John for another great interview! Anything else you’d like to say to our readers as we wrap this up?
John: Well firstly to YOU Jason, thanks for not forgetting about this old rock n roll dog! Thanks to any and all who read this, I thank you for indulging me to ramble about my favorite subject. Loud rock n roll is near and dear to me, and KISS is my favorite band so…….any time Jason wants to throw down, ole JE is here to oblige! I hope you all get a chance to check out my website KICKASS FOREVER – either the site or social media. Just want to say thanks again and keep the rock n roll flame alive!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!